Monthly Archives: January 2012

Bagels

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Everyone has their ideal idea of a bagel. Some like a soft crust with a doughy interior and others like a thick crust with a chewy, dense interior, sometimes referred to as the water bagel. And others like them both ways! Typically, water bagels are boiled and soft bagels are steamed. If made well, both techniques can yield incredible tasting bagels. For a long time, I was an advocate of the water bagel, never missing the chance to visit Zabars and H&H when in NYC, since Allentown is basically devoid of adequate bagels.

But…then I discovered The College Corner Café in Lancaster, PA. Now these bagels are not the crusty, chewy water bagel kind, but are soft, a little doughy and chewy, and very light! They were most definitely the best bagels I’d ever tasted, to which all of my college friends can attest to! : ) I was first introduced to these mouth-watering delicacies at F&M’s (my college’s) first bagel breakfast my freshman year, in which our dorm provided free bagels from the College Corner Café (nicknamed the “bagel shop” by F&M students) at 8:30am sharp every Wednesday morning. This was most definitely a major highlight of my week and made me far more awake for my 9am intro to psychology class.

One day, I decided to sample every type of cream cheese (also made at the bagel shop and provided at our bagel breakfasts) by painting my two halves with every flavor on the table. One strip next to another, totaling 10 strips, 5 on each half, and 10 types of cream cheese, from vegetable all the way to maple walnut! They resembled little edible color wheels! I’m sure you can imagine the many confused stares I got, especially at 8:30 in the morning when no one really cared about anything except snatching their bagel (and then probably going back to bed) and maybe a cup of coffee if they had class. But I really didn’t care what they thought. It was a lot easier than spreading the whole bagel with one cream cheese that I might ultimately hate, destroying my breakfast for the day. After that morning, I decided that plain and strawberry cream cheese were my favorites : )

Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite as ambitious to sample every type of bagel, so I mainly stuck to plain and whole wheat (which in my opinion resembled more of a multi-grain). However, junior year, I decided to try the blueberry bagel because the raving reviews I’d been hearing, making me very tempted, even though I’d had negative experiences with blueberry bagels in the past. Well that was definitely worth it because it became my new favorite type of bagel! Made with fresh blueberries, this bagel was authentic, soft, chewy and very flavorful! You can imagine how excited I was one day when I saw the flavor of the week: cranberry orange, another bagel made with fresh fruit! From then on, I made weekly trips to the bagel shop and switched off between my two favorites, plain and blueberry, and of course the occasional cranberry orange.

Anyway, although I would love to have the bagel shop’s recipe, I decided Peter Reinhart’s would most likely not disappoint. Now his bagel is the chewy New York water bagel type, but instead of being dense and extremely filling, these are more on the airy side, which to me at least is much more satisfying to the stomach.

The only time I had made bagels in the past was when I was about nine with my mom. The only recollection I have of that experience is boiling the bagels, the best part of course! So I decided it was time to give it another shot. The fact that you did most of the work the day before, and then boiled and baked the bagels the next morning made Mr. Reinhart’s recipe even more appealing!

Definitely give these bagels a try, especially if you love those New York water bagels! It’s really no harder than making bread! Also, although malt syrup/powder is incredibly challenging to find, hunt it down, because it’s what makes these bagels extremely authentic! (I found malt syrup at Whole Foods Market.)

This dough is also quite tough because of the large amount of bread flour, so I would definitely recommend a stand-up mixer if you have one on hand.

 Bagels

Yield: 1 dozen large or 24 mini bagels

 Ingredients:

Sponge:


1 teaspoon instant yeast

4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour

2 1/2 cups water, at room temperature

 Dough:


1/2 teaspoon instant yeast


3 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour

2 3/4 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons malt powder
OR
1 tablespoon malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar

 Day 2:

1 tablespoon baking soda

Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting

Toppings such as: seeds, salt, onion, or garlic (optional)

 Directions:

1. To make the sponge: Stir the yeast into the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the water and stir until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (resembling pancake batter). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for two hours or until mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when bowl is tapped on countertop.

2. To make the dough: In the same bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer, stir the additional yeast into the sponge. Add 3 cups of the flour, the malt powder or syrup and the salt into the bowl and mix (or mix on low speed with dough hook) until all of the ingredients form a ball. As you mix, slowly add in the additional 3/4 cup of flour to stiffen the dough. The dough will be very stiff and dry, but should be moist enough so that all ingredients can be evenly incorporated throughout.

3. Transfer dough to counter and knead for about 10 minutes (or 6 minutes if using the dough hook). When done, dough should register 77 to 81 degrees. If it seems too dry, add a few drops of water, and if too sticky, add a bit more flour. Immediately divide the dough into a 12 small pieces around 4 1/2 ounces each for standard large bagels. Roll each piece into a ball; when finished, cover them with a damp towel and let them rest for 20 minutes.

4. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and mist lightly with cooking spray. Next, you will need to shape the bagels. Put your thumb through the center of each ball of dough and then rotate, until the bagel is even in width all around. The bagel should be about 2 ½ inches in diameter.

5. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Then midst the bagels very lightly with cooking spray and cover the sheets loosely with plastic wrap. Then let the bagels rise at room temperature for about 20 minutes. You will know if they are ready for the next step if you drop one in a bowl of cool water and it floats back to the top in under ten seconds. If this test succeeds, pat the tester bagel dry, place the plastic wrap back on top and put in refrigerator overnight. (If you don’t want to bake them the next day, you can do so the day after, but don’t wait any longer). If the tester bagel doesn’t float to the top within 10 seconds, let them rest longer, checking back every 10-20 minutes to test another one.

6. The following day: Preheat oven to 500 degrees with two racks set in middle of oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

7. Remove bagels from fridge and gently drop them into water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minute, flip them over and boil for another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can boil 2 minutes per side. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle parchment paper with cornmeal or flour. If topping the bagels, do so immediately after they come out of water.

8. When all bagels have been boiled, place pans in oven and bake for about 5 minutes, then rotate pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180 degree rotation. Then lower oven temperature to 450 degrees and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until bagels turn light golden brown.

9. Remove from oven and let bagels cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.

10. Eat and ENJOY!!

From Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice 

Lemon Mascarpone Blondies

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Ever become tired of plain old blondies? I could certainly go for a variation once in a while. So when I came across a recipe titled, Lemon Mascarpone Blondies, excitement bubbled within me. Except embarrassingly, I actually discovered this recipe a couple years ago and have had it bookmarked ever since. Why have I delayed in making these for so long? Well it was mainly because of that one main ingredient: mascarpone, which we never seemed to have in the fridge and which I never seemed to plan ahead enough to remember to buy at the grocery store.

Finally, after becoming perturbed by its constant presence on my “Things to Make” list, I decided to plan ahead for once and write down mascarpone cheese on the grocery list.

I didn’t really know what to expect from this recipe, which may have been another reason for not racing to the store just to buy mascarpone. I wondered what effect this cheese would have on the texture of so called, “blondies.” But now I would finally find out!

In the oven, you could already detect their lemony flavor.

After tasting one, it was clear I should have made that one extra trip to the store a very long time ago. These blondies were extremely moist and creamy with strong flavors of sweet citrus. They definitely resembled something or a combination of two things I’ve had before, but I couldn’t decide what this was. Every time I indulged in one, I had a new idea of what they reminded me of. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that the combination of their flavor and texture resembled most closely a combination of lemon bars and lemon cheesecake. If you like either of these delicacies, I guarantee you’ll love these delicious treats! 

Lemon Mascarpone Blondies

Yield: one 8×8 inch baking pan

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of butter, melted

scant 1 cup of tightly packed dark brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

8 ounces of mascarpone cheese

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

2 1/2 teaspoons of lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon of baking soda

Pinch of salt

1 cup of all-purpose flour

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour an 8X8 pan. Whisk together the melted butter and sugar in a bowl.

2. Add the egg and vanilla extract and whisk.

3. Add the lemon juice, zest, and mascarpone cheese and mix thoroughly.

4. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, mix it all together.

5. Pour into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20-30 minutes, rotating half way through or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares and serve.

Tip: If edges are brown but middle is still undercooked, cover with tin foil and poke hole in center or where underbaked.

Adapted (a very tiny bit) from Simply Recipes  

Cranberry Orange Bread

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Apparently cranberries keep quite a long time in the fridge because for some reason my mom decided to buy way too many bags over the Thanksgiving holiday and they were still fine in late December when I discovered them buried underneath bunches of kale, lemons, oranges, and parsnips deep in the fridge. I’m not sure what she was thinking since we were only assigned the cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner, but I guess you can never have too many bags of cranberries. After making too different kinds of cranberry sauce, a traditional one and a cranberry-apple sauce (my personal favorite), and roasting more, we still had more cranberries to use.

For a while now, I’ve had a recipe for cranberry orange bread hidden between the countless pages in my enormous recipe binder as well as one bookmarked from joyofbaking.com on my computer. After analyzing the two recipes, I settled on the one in my recipe binder, originally in the cookbook, “Café Brenda.”

Normally, cranberry bread would not be in my top ten choices of different quick breads to make, but half way through baking this bread, its citrusy, fragrant aroma boosted my optimism for its potential.

Emerging from the oven, this bread also wore a beautiful appearance. Dotted with bright orange zest and juicy red cranberries and smelling delicious, it was a challenging task not to dig right in.

After waiting patiently for the flavors to meld and for it to cool a bit, it was time to have a slice. So tender and moist with flavors that just flew you to the moon, I would say this quick bread is outstanding beyond belief!

Cranberry Orange Bread

Yield: 1 9×5 loaf

Ingredients:

¼ cup salted butter, room temperature

very scant ½ cup honey (or ½ cup if you like quick breads on the sweeter side)

1 cup orange juice

1 egg, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons grated orange rind

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsps baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

½ chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted (optional)

1 cup cranberries, washed and coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1. Cream butter. Add honey and beat until light and creamy. Add orange juice, egg, and orange rind, beating until well mixed.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt). Stir into wet ingredients just until combined. Stir in prepared cranberries and nuts (if using).
  3. Turn dough into a buttered 9×5 loaf pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 44 to 55 minutes, rotating half way through baking. (Mine baked a total of 44.5 minutes). Bread will be done when cake tester inserted in middle comes out clean. Let bread stand in pan for 10-15 minutes, and then turn out onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing (if you can wait that long!)

Adapted from Café Brenda

 

 

 

Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

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The perfect chocolate chip cookie.

Obviously, everyone holds a different opinion on what exactly this entails.

For me, the perfect chocolate chip cookie contains a crisp exterior with a soft and very chewy interior, semi-sweet chocolate chips that are evenly incorporated throughout, so that there is one (no more) in every bite, and a deep, caramelized flavor with notes of brown sugar and vanilla.

However, this is an exceptionally difficult task to achieve.

The Tollhouse recipe accounts for the impeccable flavors that I wish to unearth, but their texture is not quite as commendable. It is true that right from the oven and the following day their texture remains pretty crisp and chewy, but the next day, I find that even though they’re still soft, the chewiness and crispness disappear and what’s left is a sort of crumbly dry softness instead. Although, their flavor is consistent for a very long time.

Apart from the Tollhouse recipe, the two most recent chocolate chip cookie recipes I have made are the one for “Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies”, found on the Brown Eyed Baker blog and also in Baking Illustrated and one for “Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies,” found on the SmittenKitchen blog. I made the former recipe at the end of the summer and the latter one a few days ago. After sampling a cookie from the most recent batch, I noticed its strong resemblance to the one I made several months prior. After glancing back and comparing the two recipes, I realized they were practically the same; the only differences being that the “Crisp and Chewy” ones had 2 tablespoons less flour, 1 teaspoon more vanilla extract and ½ cup more chocolate chips (although I only put in the amount I had previously used in the other recipe, since I thought that was enough chocolate chips).

Anyways, I couldn’t taste much of a difference in these two recipes. However, the texture was perfect!! Crisp on the outside and very soft and chewy on the inside! Yet, there was something missing in the flavor. Something that the Tollhouse recipe mastered, but this recipe was missing. Next time I make chocolate chip cookies, I plan to try to take the texture of this cookie and the flavor of the Tollhouse cookie and combine these ingredient aspects to obtain the perfect chocolate chip cookie! The only problem is figuring out which ingredients to play with…

Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: About 50 cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 egg,
1 egg yolk

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.

3. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.

4. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough a tablespoon at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 2 inches apart.

5. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, rotating half way through baking time, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Adapted just a bit from Smitten Kitchen

 

 

Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Challah

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Bread Baker’s Apprentice Bread #1: Challah

I decided I would explore the art of bread baking this past summer. The first step in this process was to purchase a book on bread. After reading internet reviews, leafing through the extensive collection of bread books at Barnes and Noble, and discovering the BBA challenge forum on the blog, Pinchmysalt, I decided to purchase Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

Now I have made many types of yeast breads before, but I wanted to delve in deeper and learn more about the specifics of making artisan bread. After skimming this book again once home, I decided to begin with a bread that could be made in one day. After browsing through the small quantity of one-day breads, I chose Challah.

Now Challah is one of those breads that there are so many different recipes for and multiple variations. Many Jewish families have their own secret challah recipe that has been passed down through many generations. The one I usually use is one given to me my freshman year in college by one of the directors of the Hillel chapter. She would make this challah every other Friday starting at 11am. The first time I tasted this delectable creation, I thought it was literally the best thing I had ever eaten. It was also different from any other challah recipe I’d ever tried. This challah was extremely moist and sweeter than most challah. After helping her make the challah for the Hillel’s Friday night Shabbat dinners, I asked for her recipe. Surprisingly, she gave it to me (typically, only the Hillel seniors receive this recipe in their goodie bag when they graduate). I felt quite special. Ever since then, that is my go-to challah recipe. Every time I make it at home, my brother basically devours one loaf as soon as it emerges from the oven, savoring its warm and slightly doughy interior and its crisp, hot braided crust. Luckily it makes four loaves.

Anyways, as you can see, it was quite difficult to deviate from that recipe. Well I finally did it, since my goal is to make every recipe in the BBA book (eventually).

Now on to Mr. Reinhart’s challah.

Reinhart says to use instant yeast, but I only had active dry yeast. Stupidly, I didn’t look up the difference between the two until the first proofing of the dough, figuring they were pretty much the same thing. After googling this, I learned that instant yeast can be mixed right into the other ingredients (flour, etc), but active dry should be dissolved in water and left to sit for a few minutes before being added to other ingredients. One site said the dough might not rise as well; but I did not have that problem, as my dough almost hit the roof of the oven!

Besides this, I followed his recipe basically to a tee. My dough was on the drier side so I had to add the full 1 1/8 cups of water. It was quite supple to knead; I was surprised he suggested to knead it for 10 minutes though, which seemed long. The dough definitely more than doubled in size after proofing. I chose to shape the dough into one huge loaf (not realizing how HUGE it would be). I followed the braiding instructions, which indicated to begin braiding from the center, which actually makes sense so that both sides are even. I had just always begun from one end and evened the ends up afterwards, tucking the ends underneath the loaf (which Mr. Reinhart also suggests to do). I let this loaf rise, which it did extensively and then brushed the loaf with egg white wash once again. I actually didn’t whisk the egg whites so they were frothy (as instructed to do in the recipe) because I missed this detail. I wonder if they would have made a difference though…?

I baked the challah at 350 degrees for 20 minutes (at which point it looked done, a nice golden brown laminating the top. Yet Mr. Reinhart said to turn the loaf around and bake it for another 20-45 minutes!! I thought this was way too long. I did mine for about 15 minutes more, making sure not too get the crust too brown, but I wanted to ensure all the eggs were cooked through too.

Emerging from the oven, it was enormous but the most beautiful loaf of challah I’d ever seen and baked! Cutting into it after it cooled, it had a great texture, soft and airy on the inside with a crisp crunch of crust. I was a bit disappointed with the flavor though. This may be because I am used to the challah I usually make, but looking back at the recipe, Mr. Reinhart’s uses a lot less salt and sugar than most challah recipes do. Now I am a person who usually thinks a normal amount of sugar and salt (for most people) is too much. However, the flavor was a bit too subtle for all of the work and time that it took to make. Instead, this bread would be better tasting with a little jam or as sandwich bread or even French toast. I don’t know if the lack of flavor could have been due to the active dry yeast substitution, but I doubt it. My opinion is that there was a bit too little sugar and salt. A hint more of these ingredients could have brought out the other flavors in the bread as well.

I will probably not make this recipe again but it was definitely worth the time and effort with its beautiful presentation and terrific texture.

Soft and Chewy Snickerdoodles

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Ever heard of a snickerdoodle? If you haven’t, you’re probably thinking that’s a strange name for a cookie. In fact, the origin of snickerdoodles and their name is quite controversial among food historians. Some believe it’s rooted in the German name for “snail noodles”, a kind of pastry and others think they got their name from a tradition among New Englanders to give cookies whimsical, meaningless names. I guess we’ll never know for sure, but you can settle upon your favorite theory!

Snickerdoodles are very similar to sugar cookies. However, snickerdoodles can be distinguished by their exterior coating of cinnamon-sugar as well as their typical inclusion of a fine, acidic powder called cream of tartar, which gives these cookies a subtle tangy flavor. This tang and the sweetness of the cinnamon-sugar combine beautifully to create a unique, extraordinary flavor.

The texture of these cookies can also vary from thick and crunchy to soft and chewy. Personally, I am much more of an advocate for soft and chewy cookies (as you will begin to notice as I post more and more cookie recipes).

I’ve been using this one snickerdoodle recipe for several years now because of its consistent outcomes, but I finally succumbed to searching for another one (since there’s almost always an even better recipe out there), and I found this one on the Brown Eyed Baker blog, while exploring her many mouth-watering cookie recipes. Sinking your teeth into the crystallized cinnamon-sugar exterior, you will then savor the soft and chewy interior, making it hard to eat just one of these amazing cookies!

Soft and Chewy Snickerdoodles

Yield: About 50 cookies

Ingredients:

2¾ cups flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature

scant 1½ cups sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cinnamon Sugar mixture:

2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

2 ½ tsp cinnamon

Directions:

1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and put in refrigerator to chill.

2. Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.

3. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

4. Gradually stir in the flour mixture, beating on low speed just until the flour is blended.

5. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.

6. In the meantime, mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop 1-inch balls (heaping cookie scooper) of dough and roll in the cinnamon and sugar mixture to coat.

8. Place on chilled cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating half way through baking.

10. Let cookies set on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack. Store cookies in an airtight container.

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

 

Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal, and Dried Cherry Cookies

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It’s a little tricky to make cookies healthy, but not eliminate their addictive quality. However, Cooking Light does an incredible job of this in almost all of their baking recipes. One particular cookie recipe that really impressed me was one of the reader recipes in the Enlightened Cook section of their magazine for Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies. After tweaking it a little, I’d say this recipe could be substituted for a fattening oatmeal chocolate chip cookie any day!

These cookies lend a chewy, oaty texture, using old-fashioned oats as a star ingredient. They also obtain a deep caramelized flavor from the brown sugar, accented by nodes of rich, bittersweet chocolate and bits of sweet tanginess from the dried cherries.

Enjoy these delicacies, crisp on the exterior and soft and chewy on the interior!

Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal, and Dried Cherry Cookies

Yield: About 30 cookies

Ingredients:

1/3 cup (1.5 ounces) all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (1.5 oz) whole-wheat flour

1 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 tsp baking soda

6 TBP salted butter

¾ cup packed light brown sugar

2/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg, lightly beaten

¼- 1/3 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or chocolate coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Whisk together flours, oats, and baking soda in a large bowl.
  3. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in the microwave. Add brown sugar, stirring until smooth. Add sugar mixture to flour mixture; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended.
  4. Add cherries, vanilla, and egg; beat until combined. Fold in chocolate. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake for 8-12 minutes, rotating front to back half way through baking time. Cool on pans 1-2 minutes or until almost firm. Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.

Adapted from Cooking Light